In the light of Black Lives Matter: When They See Us

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, Elisabetta Pulcini recommends this must-watch series.

Elisabetta Pulcini
15th June 2020
Credit: IMDb
Antron McCray. Kevin Richardson. Yusef Salaam. Raymond Santana. Korey Wise. Five boys wrongly convicted of a horrific crime. Five boys crushed by a system designed to do just that.

Through their eyes, Ava DuVernay expertly encapsulates the American justice system, while humanizing the stories of the notorious ‘Central Park Five’. This was achieved not only through precise directing, but also by creating an on-set environment which was prone to empathy and understanding. This was done both by working closely with the men involved in the case, and hiring therapists and counselors, rendering them available to anyone on set.

Jharrel Jerome as Korey Wise in When They See Us
Credit: Netflix, IMDb

There has been a lot of discussion of how a person’s character doesn’t impact their talent: however, Ava shows how important warmth is to translating human experiences to the screen. From the colours to the surreal sequences, this four-part mini-series is on the whole powerful and sharp, while also kind and gentle when it needs to be.

The viewer witnesses how these kids' lives were emptied out and deprived of any doubt that they lived in a country set up against them

This set experience translates not only in the technique, but in the sincere performances of the actors. Seen as both kids and adults, the viewer witnesses how these kids’ lives were emptied out, how they were deprived of any doubt that they lived in a country set up against them. Jharrel Jerome as Korey Wise is a standout, being the only one playing both the kid and adult version of his character. This comported not only a physical transformation, which is hardly the highlight of his performance, but an emotional exploration so thorough which defies anyone which dismisses acting as a narcissistic exercise.

When They See Us provides a stark look at the justice system through the eyes of those who suffered because of it

Education on institutionalized racism should focus on the statistics. On the numbers, the cold-hard facts. The laws and words. The things which paint a clear picture of what the system was set up to be. However, like most injustices in history, education gains relevance through the individual stories. This series succeeds in achieving both sides of this: it provides a stark look at the justice system through the eyes of those who suffered because of it. A clear example of how emotion and facts are not mutually exclusive, When They See Us is a must watch.

Credit: Netflix, YouTube
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AUTHOR: Elisabetta Pulcini
Film Editor 19/20 and Law (LLB) graduate. An Italian passionate about journalism and the law: always up for a debate. @ElisabettaPul

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